LET NO ONE, WHEN YOUNG, DELAY TO STUDY PHILOSOPHY, NOR, WHEN OLD, GROW WEARY OF HIS STUDY. FOR NO ONE CAN COME TOO EARLY OR TOO LATE TO SECURE THE HEALTH OF HIS SOUL”-Epicurus.
The necessity, usefulness and indispensability of the discipline known and called philosophy, cannot be overemphasized. It is desirable, therefore, that this short piece begins with a quote by the philosopher, Epicurus of Samos who lived between (341 BC-270 BC). Apart from being very particular about the preservation of peace of mind, cultivation of virtues, particularly the virtue of prudence and also, the study of philosophy, Epicurus was concerned with how to ensure the necessary needs of man; namely, equanimity (ataraxia), bodily health/comfort, and the sustenance of life. Hence, his dictum: “Let no one, when young, delay to study philosophy, nor, when old, grow weary of his study. For no one can come too early or too late to secure the health of his soul”. Interestingly, 1746 years after Epicurus’ death, this irrevocable philosophic averment is still useful, meaningful and necessary today. The year now is 2016, and philosophy which began with wonder and curiosity, still invites us to an examination and assessment of ourselves, especially in an era that the living condition of a people is still paradoxically nothing to write home about.
Since every profession has its own unique professional body and every Professor professes a particular discipline, it is therefore necessary to state that every discipline, willy-nilly, is a professional discipline and philosophy, in this case, is not an exemption. The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), for instance, is an umbrella professional association of all lawyers admitted to the Bar in Nigeria. Same with Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), an umbrella professional body for all medical doctors; Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), a professional association for all Nigerian Engineers, etc. Annually, Bi-annually, or as may be decided by the body/association, Congresses/Conferences are held to discuss ideas and policies as well as address national/international issues of urgent importance.
Sequel to this year’s Nigerian Philosophical Association (NPA) Conference, (a body of teachers of Philosophy), billed for OCTOBER, 26-28, 2016, at Onyeama Ugochukwu Hall, Town campus, to be hosted by the Department of Philosophy, University of Uyo, Uyo, Nigeria with the theme: PHILOSOPHY IN AFRICA TODAY, there is need to most respectfully and cordially invite every rational being (philosophers and non-philosophers), to REFLECTION, as this epoch making philosophical gymnasium promises to be one of the best in the history of NPA Conferences. A total of 164 Conference papers, we are made to understand, shall be presented. The sub-themes of the conference include, among others:
The Practice and Standards of Philosophizing in Africa;
African Indigenous Philosophies and Heritage Resources;
Ethnic Identities, Self Retrieval and African Development;
Philosophy for Development;
Philosophy and the Humanities for African development;
Philosophy and Science;
Philosophy and Governance;
Philosophy and Corruption in Africa;
Philosophy, the Family and Sexuality;
Ethical Issues in Africa;
Economic Philosophies and African Development;
Leadership and Political Philosophies in African Democracies;
The Evolution of African Philosophies;
Philosophy, Party Politics and Political Participation;
Gender Issues in African Development;
Philosophy and National Integration;
Philosophic Science and National Development;
African Philosophers and Leadership Question in Africa;
Methodological Issues in African Philosophy;
Epistemology, Metaphysics, Aesthetic and African Development;
Philosophy and Religion in Africa Today etc.
Occupying a conspicuous stead in the multifarious concatenation of issues that continue to stir the mind are the questions of the meaninglessness of Philosophy; question whether there is an African Philosophy as distinct from Western Philosophy; question whether philosophy really connotes something mystical, esoteric, occultic, abstract, mysterious, and so on. Pathetically, there are litany of persons who still insist that philosophy as a discipline is useless, meaningless, abstract and has no relevance in daily life. While we confess certain sympathy for such persons, they need be informed that philosophy is more embracing than these ascriptions.
OF WHAT USE, THEN, IS PHILOSOPHY?
While one wonderingly contemplates on this hair-splitting, thought-provoking and mind-blowing questio disputate often asked by ‘non-initiates’ in philosophy, we must interrogate our minds with these questions to which I think are necessary: if philosophy is useless, why then would one be crowned as a DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY (PhD) in ANY DISCIPLINE if one attains the highest degree of learning in school? Why is Philosophy and Logic made compulsory to all first year students of our universities, by the National Universities Commission (NUC), if it were not useful? Or, could that be what makes Philosophy useless? Certainly not. There is equally need to point out and argue in defence of philosophy that philosophy is useful, meaningful, has relevance and has contributed tremendously to nation building. Perhaps few points are necessary for which I speak/write now.
In his “Appreciating Philosophy”, the first Professor of Philosophy, University of Uyo, Udo Etuk, writes: “It is true that there are people who are born with a certain disposition or aptitude to look at things ‘twice’; to wonder, about things and seek deeper understanding; and when they talk or give advice, there is an air of wisdom about their words. However, there is no doubt that this sort of ability or aptitude, even where it is present in persons naturally, can be enhanced or inculcated through learning, and the subject of study or discipline which can foster it better than any other discipline is PHILOSOPHY” (2).
Apart from THALES (the father of western philosophy; the first man to predict the solar eclipse in May, 28th, 585BC; first man to solve a number of engineering problems for the military; first man to invent navigational instruments and techniques); SOCRATES (a great Greek philosopher who demonstrated the need to live a good life via his dicta “Man know thyself (Gnothi Secauton) and the “unexamined life is not worth living”; PLATO (that all men desire what is good); ARISTOTLE (that since man aims at the Summum Bonum (Highest Good), ethics then should consist of guiding our behaviour in accordance with out purpose, and THOMAS AQUINAS (that good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided (Bonum faciendum et prosiquendum, et malum vitandum), one philosopher who readily comes to mind any time the contributions of philosophy to nation building is mentioned, is JOHN LOCKE. The beauty of Locke’s philosophy lies in his social contract. Natural Rights are entitlements under natural law, which of course is God’s law. Locke strongly believed (to which I agree) that God created creatures to live happily. He maintains that man is born with natural rights and as such, these rights cannot be taken away from him. The state therefore, exists to protect the rights of its citizens (Ekpoudom, Natural Law Theory: Implications for Human Rights in Nigeria. Unpublished M.A. Thesis, 2015:74). In his article, CAN PHILOSOPHY CONTRIBUTE TO NATION BUILDING and specifically on John Locke, S. Nnoruka submits that: THE FOUNDERS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA BORROWED A LOT FROM JOHN LOCKE, THE PHILOSOPHER. IN FACT, THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES IS TO A LARGE EXTENT FAITHFUL TO JOHN LOCKE’S POLITICAL THEORY AND IT IS KNOWN THAT MORE THAN HALF OF THE COUNTRIES OF THE WORLD USE THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTION AS A REFERENCE BOOK. SO IT CAN BE SAID THAT LOCKE’S POLITICAL THEORY HAS UNMISTAKABLY AND UNPRETENTIOUSLY INFLUENCED THE MODE OF GOVERNANCE IN MANY COUNTRIES OF THE WORLD (Nnoruka, Academia: Journal of Philosophy. Owerri, 2003:116).
Nigeria, our country, (nay Africa), plagued by squander mania, corruption, looting, examination malpractices, cheating, sexual scandals, electoral malpractices, unemployment and so on, is a sick one. She is in agony and urgently needs philosophy as a therapy and (Nigerian) philosophers as therapists. When Plato declared that “Until philosophers become leaders or the leaders of this world are made philosophers, the world may never have peace”, he was not mincing words. In addition to the fact that, philosophy, described as philo sophia (love of wisdom or pursuit of knowledge), has the duty to help one think critically, constructively, coherently, and rationally, ENSOPHIZATION which summarizes the way Essien sees philosophy also goes a long way to demonstrate the usefulness of philosophy. He writes thus:
“Ensophization is the process of doing philosophy with intent to infuse wisdom. To “ensophize” is to infuse wisdom, where “sophia”, is wisdom. What I call “ensophism” describes the way I see philosophy. “Ensophism” is philosophy. Philosophy is an analysis of reality (ontoanalysis). Ensophization is an analysis of reality with the aim to infuse wisdom. Ensophization, which is an act of doing philosophy with the aim of imparting wisdom, becomes a philosophical task… If philosophy is the love of wisdom, ensophization, is the pathway towards the attainment of this wisdom. Ensophization captures epistemology as well as metaphysics, logic as well as ethics and aesthetics. Expressed otherwise, ensophization underlies our everydayness and our intellectual worries about being, knowledge of being and value of being” (Essien, Summa Philosophica: An Introduction to Philosophy and Logic. Lulu Press, USA, 2011:4).
As philosophers convoke to wonder; to ask questions and seek deeper understanding about issues of desperate importance for the growth and development of African soil and en globe, and cognizant of the many challenges our nation is at present facing, most importantly, massive unemployment, over independence on oil, poverty, insecurity, recession (economic hemorrhage), and the like, the outlook has suggested that if something positive is not done urgently about them, our dear nation shall be in for a very serious trouble. Inability to solve these basic national issues, is like making a new suit for a mad man to appease him without curing his madness; as such, cannot last.
Furthermore, it is unfortunate, yet inescapably true that Nigeria has been overshadowed by darkness. Politics has been turned into something that needs to be detested as virile, corrupt and left to the greedily ambitious. Murder, assassination, ethnic and religious disturbances, arson, sabotage, intra and inter party clashes, electoral violence etc, are but a concern for all. How long shall people be hired to kill other people? How long shall Nigerians pay fellow Nigerians to kill Nigerians forgetting that murder is recognized as one of the worst of all crimes and the most glaring example of a morally evil act? Here, the philosopher watches with horror and simply submits that the nation, he is sure, needs a messiah; a ‘Mandela’, in the strict sense of the word.
To this end, the aim of education, we are made to know, is to produce thinkers with independence of thought and man (the philosopher) is homo rationis and a thinking thing, and thinking, as Martin Heidegger wrote is “calculating, reckoning, figuring, planning, and problem-solving and has to do with having ideas or pictures before the mind, not mere brooding or whimsical reverie or day dreaming,” PHILOSOPHY IN AFRICA, then, cannot but be made relevant to life. To do this, I align with Etim who averred that “philosophy and logic should not be taught haphazardly. Pains should rather be taken to sharpen the students’ aptitude for critical thinking. Examinations on them should include creative philosophical discursive forum. If possible, students should be arranged in groups for extensive discussions on the Nigerian nation and other issues about life generally. They should also be encouraged to carryout researches that are more relevant to the Nigerian environment and not mere paper or library work”. And so, for reasons that the philosopher’s tools par excellence is critical thoughts and thought has the potential to change the world, in line with Udo Etuk I submit: “let (AFRICAN) philosophers contemplate the eternal realm of Platonic forms, if they must. Let them equally touch the terra firma of political, legal, technological and educational reality. Let them assume the ancient role of a Gadfly, if perhaps by so doing they will sting a moribund nation to wake up from a long moral slumber”.
Philosophy begins with wonder and curiosity. Man wonders about virtually everything. What can we know? To what extent can we know? Is there any purpose for life at all? Can African Philosophy contribute to Nation building? Does Nigeria need philosophy especially in an era where women still hardly have a place in African Culture? Is it possible to live a moral life in Nigeria (nay Africa)? Of what importance are these ethical issues in Africa? What are the roles of African Philosophers as regards leadership question, corruption, governance, development, self-reliance, family, national integration, and National Development? Probably simply, how has African Philosophy as distinct from western philosophy faired so far? These and many more issues, are the concern of this year’s Nigerian Philosophical Association Conference. You are invited to to REFLECTION. Welcome to the philosophical roundtable. Welcome to UniUyo. In Christian Ekpoudom’s voice “To be Wise, be a PHILOSOPHER”. Be enwisdomized; be ensophized; be NkutJesusized.